Saturday, August 6, 2011

Our State Fair!

The merry-go-round is one of the first of the carnival attractions to be seen
when you enter that area. Here, the colorful steeds await their young knights
and ladies for the first rides of the day

Today begins the 155th annual Indiana State Fair, a festival that had its beginning in the harvest celebrations at the end of the growing season and continues as a gathering of people of all backgrounds and interests, much of it on display at the fair. There is so much! Beef and dairy cattle, chickens, ducks and geese; pigs, goats and sheep; baking, sewing, photography and painting; draft horses, pleasure horses and Standardbred racing. Then there is the carnival with it's side shows and rides. 

And one cannot escape the annual onslaught of food: barbequed turkey legs, lemon shake-ups, funnel cakes and deep fried dill pickles. Just about any heart-exploding, cholesterol-laden delicacy in the world of carnival cuisine is available. The official "food" this year will be deep-fried ice cream. One of the most popular venues each year is the Indiana Pork Producers' tent, where they sell the best pork chop dinners and sandwiches to be had anywhere. Fact: the chops are sold just outside the Swine Barn, so you can see the piggy life cycle from birth to sandwich.

Yes, it's blurred but I enjoy this picture because it reminds me of the smell,
the sounds, and the massive size of the Belgian draft horses. Each of them averages
about one ton in weight. When they trot around the Coliseum, not only does their harness jingle, but they create a pleasant breeze as they pass by.

As I have for many years, I get my program, mark the exhibits I want to see and create a schedule that will allow me to take in as much as possible. My own favorites are the Clydesdale, Percheron and Belgian draft horse competitions, with 6 and 8-horse teams trotting around the Fair coliseum; their harness fittings gleam and jingle pleasantly, lending their individual music to the rhythm of the horses' gait.

A groom cools out her charge at the end of the afternoon's harness racing.
Going to the races is a friendly, relaxing way to spend the day with friends and family.
Sadly, not many younger people seem to be attracted to the Standardbreds,
 preferring "Tilt-A-Whirl" rides or computerized action to the real thing. Too bad.

Years ago, I edited a book about the history of the fair, designed its layout, and selected the artwork and photos to be included. I was struck by the unity to the fair's theme over the years as a place where people came to show what they'd accomplished over the year, whether it be growing the tallest cornstalk, the world's largest male hog or pumpkin, or having the best selection of tomatoes; baking the best apple pie, sewing the finest quilt, or making the best wine or beer -- we are all there to participate. 

Usually, I choose to participate by entering paintings and photographs, on occasion some oatmeal cookies. This year, I've entered a few photographs and an antique hand-painted porcelain cup. I like to join all those who want to show their skills in a friendly environment. Even in this arena, its pleasant to see how many talented people there are in this world. I do it not so much to win but to be a part of my community, to become engaged in the activity around me, once again, to participate.

Of course, one can always hope ...   


dive said...

State fairs! Woohoo! Deep fried things on a stick!

Deep fried ice cream sounds fun, Speedway, but I'd head straight for the Indiana Pork Producers' tent and probably eat myself to death in there.
Our versions of State Fairs are the Royal County Shows. I love 'em. Getting up close and personal with the animals and seeing all the local produce is wonderful. The only thing we don't seem to have here is the tradition of deep fried things on sticks, which is a shame as all the organic foodie stalls tend to get a little po-faced and make me long for a deep-fried Twinkie on a stick or something equally revolting.
Have a great fun time at the fair! And yay you for participating!

Petrea Burchard said...

I love the fair! The Illinois State Fair was fun when I was a kid; my 4H club was often in the Share-the-Fun pageant so we got to go as a group. It was down-homey when I was a kid, but huge. I've been to the LA County Fair once but not the California State Fair; the County Fair was a lot of rides and less farm projects but Dive, you wouldn't have been disappointed because there was plenty of fried stuff on a stick.

Speedway, I like your photos. Great atmosphere.

Speedway said...

Thanks, Petrea. The pictures are from the 2010 fair. I think I had about 2 days I designated for wandering the grounds, patrolling its perimeter, so to speak, trolling for pictures. My little Canon isn't powerful enough to get sharp images indoors (nor outdoors, for that matter) of moving objects, so the Belgians will be forever fuzzy.

I began 4H in the fourth grade, when the program was first introduced to city kids. I learned to bake from scratch and to sew. I also did handicraft and wildlife projects (my daddy helped me make a birdhouse one year and I made fishing lures another), which helped me acquire skills with hand tools a girl wouldn't ordinarily have gotten.

Each year, I faithfully submitted my projects at the county fair and got red and blue ribbons, but never quite garnered enough points for the much-coveted purple ribbon. I cherished my exhibitor's pass; my mom would drop me off at the front gate and leave me to wander the entire day. I never got into trouble and never encountered any (ages 9-12, I think). These days, people would not even consider giving their kid that much freedom

Rachel said...

I've heard that the Indiana State Fair is the best and the biggest. I hope that one day I will get to go there and experience it, until then, thanks for sharing it with us!

Speedway said...

Hi, Rachel. Sorry I'm so negligent with a response. Been working. I do believe the Iowa State Fair may be the best/biggest, though Texas may want to lay claim to the title as well.

I'm sure the Indiana organizers would be pleased to know that people think it's the best because they really try hard to make it interesting to our diverse community and keep improving the grounds and facilities every year.